Saturday, February 16, 2013

Jesus & Economic Life (2) Repentance

When Jesus preached and taught in Galilee and Jerusalem, his message made sense in the local context. So when he and John called the people to repent, they were not challenging the people for their failure to produce the fruit of the Spirit. That was not possible, because the spirit had not yet been given.

The people were called to repent of their failure to obey the law and the prophets. They had not fulfilled the requirements of the mosaic covenant. Local communities had lost the right to judge and govern themselves, so they were not accountable for that. Roman law and government had been imposed upon them, so they could not repent of failure to implement God’s system of justice and law.

However, they could be challenged for their failure to implement the instructions for economic life. Despite Roman control, they were still free to voluntarily apply these instructions, so they needed to repent of this failure and begin living their economic life in accordance with God’s principles. The political situation was beyond their control. They had more control of their economic situation.

If the families of Galilee and Judea stood alone, the Romans soldiers and tax collectors could pick them off one at a time.

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand (Mark 3:24-25).
The households and families of Israel were divided from each other. The had stopped caring for each other. If they stood together in solidarity and supported each other, they could create a better life, despite the oppression of the Romans.

We interpret the Parable of the Sower as describing the response of people to the gospel. That make sense subsequent to the cross and resurrection, but it did not make sense to Jesus listeners. Jesus said “the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). For his listeners, the word of God was the Law and the Prophets, including the instructions for economic life. They had been given the gift of the Law, but it has mostly been wasted. The devil stole it from some people’s hearts. Many received it gladly, but during a time or testing fell away. Others accepted God’s economic wisdom, but it was choked out by the “worries of life and the deceitfulness of riches” (Matt 13:22).

This was the situation in Israel when Jesus was teaching. The poor people were so beaten down that they did not think that it was practical to live by God’s instructions for economic life. The rich were so sucked in by their positions of wealth they were not interested either. It would disrupt their pleasure and comfort. Jesus sent his disciples out to preach repentance.
They went out and preached that people should repent (Mark 6:11).
The disciples could not preach in a vacuum. They would have to answer questions about why the people needed to repent. They would have challenged the people about their failure to live by the Torah, especially the economic stuff.

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